Good morning, Friday. I know I've been a bit quiet of late- apologies all around. Only excuse I have is a lack of inspiration (it happens) and a lack of time (also happens).
But while I was cruising this am's papers while debating going to the gym in the rain (strong no on that one), I came across an article that gave me pause. It was a piece in the Chicago Tribune about ageism against women being the next #metoo movement, and man, that hit home for me in a very real way.
The industry I've called home for many years, advertising, has always been known as being youth obsessed. Chasing the latest demographic with an alphabet letter has been the MO since I entered the business in the 90s. And with the fragmentation and immediacy of media nowadays, there's desperation in the air to always understand and somehow stay ahead of what the cool kids are doing. And truly, there's no place for those much past 40, let alone 50. At some point in your adult life, people will stop getting your references. And that moment is a real turning point. And it makes you feel old.
Because of this not so dirty little secret, I found myself feeling the burn a few years back. A lot of young women in the industry were telling me I reminded them of their "very cool aunt".
And then just before Christmas, a friend in the industry who is younger than me leaned in over holiday cocktails and asked quietly, "how old are you anyway?" Oof. This coming on the heels of a particularly epic photoshoot where I felt like Rodney Dangerfield in "Back to School". I wondered how, if every other part of me had changed, was I still doing the same thing career-wise I was doing in my younger life? I don't wear the same clothes I did in my 20s. I don't have the same boyfriend. I don't party the way I used to. So why on Earth was I still doing the same job?
Big caveat- many people don't want to stop doing what they're doing. And that's great. It should be your right as an experienced and season ad vet or vet of any industry to keep on keepin' on if you're doing what you love. But for me, I got the more than sneaking sense I should move on. I don't want anyone telling me I'm like their aunt. And I don't want to be the oldest person on set. I also don't want to hide behind botox or pretend I'm something that I'm not. You couldn't pay me to go back to being 25. I'm a happier person now, of this I'm certain.
What's even worse than the ageism is the notion that experience no longer has value. I can only speak to advertising, but that experience is no longer valued. Smart production is no longer valued. The value comes from youth and speed. But the funniest part of that is that in order to be scrappy and fast, you need to know what the heck you're doing. That's the rub right there.
Sure you have people sounding the alarm about all of this- the bombastic Cindy Gallop comes out in favor of age all the time. And my former home, CP+B, has bought back Alex Bogusky, who at 55, is a bit of a unicorn. I don't know many people who can get a gig in advertising at 55, let alone 50. And ps- this ageist thing is not only prevalent when it comes to women, I know men are feeling it too.
If you want my take, here it is. Reinvent. Find new ways to contribute and prosper at work. Constantly flex and adapt and find employers and causes and passion points that value what you have to offer. If thoughts of being phased out because of your age are keeping you up at night, phase yourself back in. Chances are you are totally worth it. My reinvention continues and I'm loving writing for everyone from internal agencies to PR firms and beyond. My takeaway? If advertising agencies can't flex and adapt to an aging workforce, then fuck 'em. Go make your own way. And never feel that it's too late. It's never too late. If you really look at your career, are you still totally happy doing what you're doing as you get older? If not, it may be time for a change.
And as the world turns, it looks like older women are having a bit of a moment. Some great roles for women in Hollywood for example as we saw at the Oscars this year- Glenn Close's excellent nom for "The Wife" and Olivia Colman's win for 'The Favourite". And look at Washington, DC. Sure all eyes are on AOC, but women like Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris are too legit to ever quit. And then more and more women are having babies later in life and defying the odds.
At its best, advertising is an industry that affects pop culture and brings about change. At its worst? It's a rudderless sycophant that come to think of it, is probably dealing with an identity crisis of its own, struggling for relevancy in an industry that no longer looks anything like it used to. There's a real opportunity for advertising to help shape cultural attitudes about age. Youth will always be front and center when it comes to marketing, but don't count out the rest of us. Cause we still got it. As a member of the first named generation by marketers (X), here's to getting older and being relevant, vital, and most of all, valued.
Cause that's what's up this age is just a number kind of Friday in the 718, Yours, in reading between the lines. XO